4 years the old
Blanco County Jail in Johnson
City sat empty as an Arizona rain gauge, but the drought broke
in August 1923 when Sheriff A. J. Wagner slapped the cuffs on 2 desperadoes
for "taking a joy ride in another man's Ford."
"While the record, which took four years to build, is all shattered
here today," the Llano News reported, "the officers and residents
are consoling themselves by pointing out that at least none of those
placed under arrest are residents of Blanco
It's pretty remarkable if you think about it - a county jail that
sat vacant throughout the Harding administration, but Blanco
County wasn't always so quiet and peaceful. There were times a
jail came in mighty handy.
One of the first Blanco County jails, built in 1877, was not in Johnson
City but in Blanco,
which was the county seat until 1890 when the county government relocated
City after a very contentious election. The 1877 jail, while well
hidden, still stands just off the square.
|The Old Blanco
County Jail Lock
by Michael Barr
, April 2021
incident that put the Blanco jail on the map involved Al Lackey who
in 1885 got crossways with some of his kin folks and instead of boycotting
the family reunion decided that shooting them was a better option.
Authorities captured Lackey in Johnson
City and locked him in the Blanco jail.
After several of the victims died, a mob gathered at Brushy Top on
the Johnson City Road and decided to save the county the trouble and
expense of putting a guilty man on trial. The mob rode into Blanco,
yanked Lackey's habeas corpus from his cell and hung him from a live
oak tree north of town.
was no jail in Johnson
City when the county seat moved there in 1890. The sheriff locked
prisoners in the basement of the James P. Johnson building, now the
Johnson City Bank.
| Then in 1893
the Blanco County Commissioners Court hired stonemason J. E. L. (Kergie)
Dildine to build a jail. The 2-story rectangular building, finished
in 1894, was simple, practical and economical. It housed 7 prisoners
at capacity. The tiny cells were upstairs along with a small day room
which also housed the showers. The cages reportedly came over in wagons
from the 1877 jail in Blanco.
As was common in most country jails the sheriff and his family lived
on the first floor. Later the sheriff moved out and the jailer moved
in. In the 1990s the first floor of the jail housed the 911 center.
marker in front of the jail mentions a jailbreak in 1897. I couldn't
find out much about it although I did locate an 1897 Jailbreak IPA
at the Pecan Street Brewery next door.
A more familiar exodus took place in February 1976 after Blanco
County Sheriff W. J. Haas arrested Hershel Love for burglary.
Love, aka The Texas Houdini, had already busted out of the Howard
County Jail in Big
Spring. He stole a metal pointer from the courthouse at his arraignment
and used it to pick the lock on the cell door.
Love hated jails, and on February 5, 1976 he kicked out a cinder block
at the Blanco
County Jail in Johnson
City, squeezed through the opening and got away.
Authorities captured him 4 days later in Junction.
This time they locked him in the Gillespie
County Jail in Fredericksburg,
but after a week he lifted a ceiling tile, squeezed his way into an
air duct and crawled onto the roof. He jumped to ground, hot-wired
a 1964 Ford Sedan and drove away.
The1894 jail in Johnson City was still in use the night Jerry Jeff
Walker got arrested in Blanco
County on a drunk driving charge. Ol' Scamp, who was well-acquainted
with the criminal justice system, was on his way back to Austin
after a concert with Willie and Waylon at Luckenbach
Jerry Jeff may have been a celebrity, but on that occasion he was
just an outsider causing problems on what until then was shaping up
to be another slow night at the Blanco
""Speedsters Break Blanco County Record," Llano News, August 16,
"Blanco County Getting New Jail," San Antonio Express-News, November
Edward A. Blackburn, Jr., Wanted: Historic County Jails of Texas
(College Station: Texas A&M University Press), 2005.
"Oldest Jail in use in Texas still suits county's needs," Austin
Daily Texan, October 6, 2006.
"Escape Artist Still Free," San Antonio Express-News, March 20,
"Love Hates Jail -proves it again," Big Spring Herald, March 21,